The the rehab I was in was and is still one of the best. The psychologists work their asses off, and it’s in the most beautiful location.
I had been there before for crack cocaine, snow, and drinking. I hardly remember that 6 week visit – except that I had to ‘get in touch with nature’ every bloody weekend, which makes NO sense to me. Nature is just… itchy, and… hot…. and arguably BAD for some people. In my opinion. But my second trip there, I will always remember…
I was popping about 50 codeine pills a day for pain that I didn’t realise my own brain was generating because thats what opiates do…
Coming off crack was a breeze. But codeine.. no. But my second trip to rehab turned out to be more like deployment into an active war zone. I got on well with a handful of people, however there were a handful of people who I would gladly have pushed off a roof, but on the whole it is a brilliant place. The clashes I had were mainly as a result of the psychiatrist because I was appalled at the complete lack of care for me as a human being. My resulting defiant behavior then became an issue for some of the other staff and as a result – I was ‘discussed’ and treated accordingly. The psychiatrist spent less than five minutes with me on each session, and didn’t make eye contact with me. We saw her once a week in person and the second time in a week was over Skype.
And we paid for that. We paid more for that 3 minutes than we would have if we had seen a shrink for an hour in any other environment. I objected violently.
Early on, she decided that I needed to be sedated. I had not fought with anyone. I had not given anyone a hard time, and had reported only a headache and back pain (which is what I had been overdoing the codeine for), and because that must mean severe withdrawal in her eyes – it was decided that I should be given enough of a sedative that my insides stopped working. Literally.
I would sit on the toilet to pee, and because my insides had pretty much been sedated too – I would sit for ages not able to move any of the muscles needed to urinate, and then fall asleep, and then fall off the toilet face first onto the floor. When I complained about how much sedation they were giving me, the solution was not to listen to me as a human being with rights as to what meds I take.
There was an incident where they knocked on the bathroom door and I didn’t answer – as I was fast sleep with my butt in the air. The solution was – rather than bringing down the amount of sedative – they chose to take the entire lock off the bathroom door. You know, just in case I fell again. Makes total sense.
I slept through all the lectures, and the toilet was a regular long term resting place. And because I slept most of the day, I was wide awake at night. Depending on the nurse on duty, this was either a problem or it wasn’t. For one particular nurse, it was a devastating issue.
The smoking ‘fishbowl’ was right opposite the nurses station, and it was too cold or too late to smoke outside, so we would sit in there and have a laugh and smoke up a storm. The nurse in question – let’s call her June, and myself, well, we had a personality clash of magnificent proportions. World ending deafening proportions.
Admittedly, I am not the easiest going gal to walk this messed up world, but I am always polite unless I feel cornered, or I feel like I am being bullied or treated unfairly. My box of cigarettes was finished and I went into the nurse’s station to get another box from the place where they were stored, and I asked June for the key.
I would be lying if I said I could recount exactly what happened next – but this is what I remember:
June said something about smoking so much being ‘bad sleep hygiene’. Now, I am OCD about hygiene, and I basically interpreted that as her telling me that I was dirty. I had not attended the lecture on ‘Sleep Hygiene’ yet so had no idea that it referred to what time you went to bed, rather than being clean when you went to bed. Heaven only knows why they chose the word ‘Hygiene’ for that when there are so many other words that could have been more appropriate.
I shouted something about her being condescending and who the hell does she think she is talking to me that way? I’m not some stupid faceless junkie… and I remember vaguely stepping in to get into her face so that she had to step back. I think that was the error. Well, one of them.
She said something, which in my fiery determination to be heard – I understood as condescending and to use a phrase that I use way too often, ‘I lost the plot’.
It was loud, and it was obnoxious. It was also documented in great detail in her little nurse’s book.
I got my cigarettes and I went back to the fishbowl. The young lady I was in there with was trying her best to death stare the nurse, but as she is a harmless and beautiful fairy of a soul, it looked more like an attempt at a Chinese impression.
That young lady has since then become one of my favourite people. Mia. Or known to me as Loco. She was a ball of fire that was too ‘contained’ to share how she was feeling. I watched her in group therapy sessions try her best to look disdainful and intimidating – but that is impossible when you are cute and huggable. But I adored her from the start because she made me laugh until I cried, I made her laugh until she farted and because the maternal instinct in me wanted to stop anyone from messing with her. And I mean ANYONE.
Mia was there for an eating disorder. And between us – we would mock the other disorder girls for doing things like chopping up jelly beans into slices…because of how illogical it was. I snuck Mia chocolate – because I appreciated that she was a human being, and that in an environment like this where the nurses watch you pee, take a crap, weigh yourself etc, it must be hard on the soul.
Incidentally, Mia bought me Smarties from the tuck shop and the nurses had to escort her to give them to me. That made me so mad.
I made some good friends in my second trip to rehab. Mia, who comes up from where she lives and hangs out with me regularly. Cecile, who also made me laugh, and who made me coffee most mornings and introduced me to dunking chocolate in coffee.
There were other memorable people whose names I shall change because I am unable to ask them if they mind being named and insulted. There was ‘Shirley’. A self-proclaimed suicidal ‘cutter’ who took a shine to me, and asked me to cut a fringe for her. All this had to be done under nurse’s supervision because Shirley may have tried to take the scissors from me.
There was Alex, a doctor with a coke problem. He was very cool, and him and Mia used to gym together in the evenings while I annoyed the nurses with my chain smoking. Especially June, who I later discovered documented every cigarette I had too. To the exact minute.
Then there were the people I didn’t like so much. The ones who I found it really hard to reign it in with. One of the lecturers, who we will call Meryl. Meryl reminded me of a dominatrix and because she was younger than some of us, so she over compensated by being overly harsh. She took an extra shine to me because I was not ‘pliable’. I argued with some of the blatant labeling that took place. In one of the lectures she drew up a list in the board. The lesson was about being assertive instead of aggressive. Under the characterizing of someone who is aggressive, she listed things like ‘mean’ and ‘bully’ and ‘incapable of love’. I am aggressive. I know I am. But I am not a bully, nor am I cruel for fun, and I am certainly capable of love. So I argued. So she shouted. So I left. On one occasion, Mia and I were sitting in the fishbowl, completely unaware of the time, and Meryl came marching down the hall and opened the fish tank door, and snapped something about being disrespectful for being late for her lecture.
She demanded we kill our cigarettes RIGHT NOW and come to class. She closed the door and walked to the top of the stairwell, where she was still able to see us. Then she did something that made me see red. She stood and stared at me, as if challenging me to put my smoke out or to defy her by not doing so immediately. The intensity of that moment I will never forget. I returned her stare, unblinking, ( I remember because my eyeballs burned).
I yelled ‘DON’T EYEBALL ME!!! You think staring me down is going to make me want to do anything different than what I am doing?’ She gave another glare her best shot and then went down the stairs. We finished our smokes, and THEN went into the lecture.
Now, I will say that I know it is me who appears childish at this point – but keep in mind I was sick and tired of being told what’s wrong with me and what I must change when I actually liked who I was and the fact that I knew who I was seemed illogical to all that worked there with the exception of my psychologist, and Fiona, one of the most angelic nurses I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. So, by the time Meryl challenged me that day – I was not having any of it. My being late for lectures was not intentional, and so the glares that followed were not only pathetically unnecessary, but unprofessional and ‘personal’.
The lecture that followed was intense. Meryl made no eye contact with me and Mia just grinned every time I looked in her direction. Good times.
I was then called into a room and by Meryl and she tried the whole ‘I am your friend, and I care about you’ speech – which I was not buying given previous experience. Another fight ensued, and I walked out – insulted and annoyed that she was trying to be professionally kind. I remember thinking how sad it was that the core issues of all addicts is most often emotional trauma and that as a lecturer she would be so oblivious to what was really going on. True, I am aggressive, but I didn’t just magically become that way. So for her to take it personally was stupid to me.
My conclusion- was that people find me hard to communicate with because I am abrasive before I am soft. Some people take it in stride, and some don’t. But if you choose to work in an environment where addicts off all kinds with emotional complexities of all kinds come in – then why the hell would you take that job on unless you were able to deal with all types?
There were other nurses who I fought with, and then it escalated into a meeting with all the clinical staff – all because I was angry that no one was listening to me about my medication. I was being very good about the amount of pain medication I was taking – and I was getting along famously with a few of the patients, the kitchen staff, and a handful of other staff. But for reasons I will never understand, there are always ’those few’ that seem to be able to make me go from happy to homicidal in minus one second.
There were a few patients who made me want to kill. I struggled with one particular girl who was there for over eating. She would use her weight to barge through people, and then when sitting in the lounge with other people she would say something like ‘I wish I could give everyone intelligence pills. All of you could do with them.’ I said nothing at the time, but later in a group therapy when she passed around a piece of paper of a drawing of what she called her personal monster – I just wanted to tear her apart. Not because I am insensitive, but because, for real?? This gets passed around every single group therapy and we are all supposed to feel bad for you? I am fat and I don’t walk around blaming my love of food and zero self-control on an inner demon. I just like food, and have the self-control of a turd. I have had ugly stuff happen to me and I AM the monster. I’m not the victim.
She made a point of passing the image around every time someone new arrived too, which confused me because in group therapy she was a frail little mouse, but in the evening when we were all just chilling – she was over bearing and obnoxious.
One day she tried to bully me, and when I didn’t take it with the gratitude she has hoped for – she went the nurse’s station and reported that she was intimidated by me. I was pulled aside and told I need to be nice to her.
That’s right. Wrap the girl up in bubble wrap and teach her that it’s okay not to take any responsibility for her own shit. That’s going to fix everything I suppose. But what do I know? I’m just a stupid junkie with no experience at all in hiding pain.
Let me say that I am well aware that I am selfish, opinionated and often think I am smarter than everyone else – but I also KNOW that I am not, even if I think I am. But what I also am good at, is reading other people – even if I don’t apply the same to myself – possibly because I spend too much time being annoyed with others.
Rehab proved to be a challenge but also a turning point, in my own sense of who I was and what I was prepared to change and what I wasn’t. And I have maintained most of that to this day, and developed a healthy dislike for psychiatrists.